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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default The Importance of Playing Along

    I see a lot of online discussions on railroading and "bad GMing". I'm not going to speak in defence of bad GMs; certainly there are lots of mistakes that new GMs in particular make.

    However, I think for most RPGs to work, a certain amount of "playing along" is necessary. GMs do slip up, make mistakes, get rules wrong, break immersion, and design adventures that don't make perfect sense or require a small amount of railroading to work. Many players in my experience will call the GM out during the game. This, in my experience, often disrupts the game and may render it difficult to continue. Add to this that many players ignore adventure hooks and actively try to disrupt the game world, and somehow think this adds to the game.

    I'd extend this to criticism of other players. I've encountered a lot of players who mock and criticise decisions made in game, and try to direct the actions of other player's characters. However, people are not perfect strategists or professional actors, and it is extremely difficult to roleplay a social encounter with other players giggling away in the background.

    So, when a player is roleplaying an encounter, let them. When the GM presents an adventure hook, follow it. If the GM's acting is not perfect, then don't laugh at them - if you want perfect acting, go and spend years training as an actor, and then criticise.

    GMs typically put a LOT of effort into campaigns, usually for free. Creating multiple evenings of entertainment is something that a professional performer will charge a lot of money for, even if they are mediocre. Add to this that GMs have lives to lead outside the game, full time jobs, families, school, and other commitments. Under these circumstances, mistakes get made, and it becomes important to be understanding when they occur.

    Put simply, playing along with the game, and letting mistakes slide, is vital for the enjoyment of everyone else at the table. If you must criticise, doing so after or outside the game is almost always better.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Absolutely. Roleplaying games are are so very dependant on a relaxed and open social atmosphere, which is why it's such a shame that the hobby draws in so many people who have real issues with all things social. Sure, that element of escapism is there but the game really doesn't work if you forget the real people sitting around you at the table.

    It's one thing to pick apart GMing, playing styles and rules at websites like this, it's something else entirely to do it face to face. Unless something at the table genuinely makes you upset you should probably just suck it up and either try to steer the game through hints and relaxed conversation or just walk away between sessions if you can't see any possibility for fun with that particular group.

    This goes for players and GMs alike. Players shouldn't look for mistakes on the GM's part, the GM shouldn't get upset if the players aren't making the story as heroic and cinematic as they would maybe like. Everyone just needs to relax and have fun while taking everyone else's fun into consideration.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I agree with this sentiment entirely, though I suppose I might have a really blessed experience thus far since I've only ever run into this rarely, and even on the times my mistakes were called out, it really was a problem that needed resolving. (And it was never hostile. More often than not it was really polite and/or just confused and looking for clarification.)

    I think that this runs into my Two Core Laws of Having a Good Time. (The HGT Laws for short.)
    Namely, the first:
    1. Treat your players like grownups. (Unless they are literally children.)

    Basically, it really doesn't ruin immersion to take a second at the start of the game to get everyone on the same page and reintroduce the groundrules. These will vary by group, but I imagine most people will agree with rules like:
    "Be respectful"
    "If someone is uncomfortable with a scene, we will cut away from it with no questions asked."
    "We're here to have a good time. If good times are being overpowered by Bad Vibes, we'll take a break and maybe talk it out."

    Stuff like that. Everyone at the table should be reasonable enough to accept pretty standard "be a decent person" rules like that, and if they aren't then you have pretty solid reason to let them find another group.

    But yeah, don't be a douchenugget to people. This... shouldngo without saying.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Um. Yeah? If OOC communication is the first response to the perception of a bad player*, then why wouldn't that extend to the perception of a bad DM (DMs are players too)? Be friends and communicate. Good gaming is better than no gaming.

    *One of the important reasons for the communication is initially you only have the perception of a bad player. Sometimes mistakes are on the part of the observer rather than the observed.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by ImNotTrevor View Post
    I agree with this sentiment entirely, though I suppose I might have a really blessed experience thus far since I've only ever run into this rarely, and even on the times my mistakes were called out, it really was a problem that needed resolving. (And it was never hostile. More often than not it was really polite and/or just confused and looking for clarification.)

    I think that this runs into my Two Core Laws of Having a Good Time. (The HGT Laws for short.)
    Namely, the first:
    1. Treat your players like grownups. (Unless they are literally children.)

    Basically, it really doesn't ruin immersion to take a second at the start of the game to get everyone on the same page and reintroduce the groundrules. These will vary by group, but I imagine most people will agree with rules like:
    "Be respectful"
    "If someone is uncomfortable with a scene, we will cut away from it with no questions asked."
    "We're here to have a good time. If good times are being overpowered by Bad Vibes, we'll take a break and maybe talk it out."

    Stuff like that. Everyone at the table should be reasonable enough to accept pretty standard "be a decent person" rules like that, and if they aren't then you have pretty solid reason to let them find another group.

    But yeah, don't be a douchenugget to people. This... shouldngo without saying.
    Okay, I'll bite.. what's the second law?

    Your first law seems to almost be all-inclusive to almost every situation.. which makes perfect sense. We get together to D&D it up.. its a group of friends hanging out.. we could be doing anything, but instead have applied this veneer of D&D over our interaction.. there's just no reason to get douchey about it. some people might get on other people's nerves, yes.. but we try to keep it friendly and avoid having some slip into the realm of Butthurt.. (our codename for someone's sullen detachment from a game due to bad luck and the ensuing aggravation)

    With something encompassing so many interpretations, what do you follow it up with? I wanna say its "Provide snacks" but I have a feeling it isn't.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorr Titanscale View Post
    I wanna say its "Provide snacks" but I have a feeling it isn't.
    It is totally "provide pizza"

    More seriously, laying out expectations when pitching your game can go a long way in letting players know the type & genre of game, what to expect to come, and how to act.
    Last edited by goto124; 2016-03-09 at 09:06 AM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    The second law doesn't really apply to this discussion, but I'll quote it since I was asked. (I only refrained from mentioning it in the first place because I wanted to stay on topic, so please don't derail for this.)

    The second Have a Good Time law is:
    2. Make sure you are using a system that suits your needs (both narratively and mechanically).

    Basically, (Insert Any System Here) isn't great at a lot of things. Use systems that are better at those things. But when you're doing the thing (Insert Same System Here) is really good at, use it.

    If you have to beat the system you're using into submission, you probably will have a better time with a different system better suited for your purposes.

    That's it.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I agree. The game works best if everyone plays along. Not every game can be a spectacular event. And people need to just accept that, and have fun.

    As a nitpicker, I can poke holes in any game. But as a player in a game, I can also choose to ignore things. Even if the DM makes a huge rule mistake...I can choose to do nothing.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    This is actually the one area in D&D where I'd say its completely appropriate for an inexperienced group of players to meta-game. I'm not saying people should blindly follow the plot, but there are a few healthy behaviors of experienced players that can help improve the flow of the game and make it more fun for everyone. Good examples are being willing to have a total stranger join your party with flimsy justification in the wake of an ally's death, or avoiding splitting the party unless its necessary because it can dramatically encumber the DM and bore the players that aren't in the active role. Naturally, very good players and DMs will be able to work around these being necessary, and they're more like training-wheel guidelines than rules.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    For any game to work, the player(s) have to play the game. For the most part, games are meant to be fun. Not all games are the same, and each game has to be played differently. There are different genres, from board games, to physical games, to tabletop wargames, to tabletop roleplaying games, etc. Each of these games has a way it is played, with general rules and conventions.

    If you are playing a ttRPG, players have to play it like a ttRPG. Not like a video game(not even an RPG), not like chess, not like monopoly, not like tennis. Unless you are totally new, you know the general gist of how these games are played, and can choose to play or not. When you walk onto a tennis court to play tennis, you accept you are playing tennis. When you sit down with a group to play Dungeons and Dragons, you accept that you are playing Dungeons and Dragons.This can be called the "metagame" as the players know this is a game and these are the established rules and conventions. Just like when you sit down to play monopoly, you accept that movement is based on 2d6, you can buy property you land on, and that you can't melt another player/token with magic when you land on their property, or use a skill check to get out of paying.

    Within ttRPG's there is a lot of variance on style of game-can PC's be evil, political intrigue vs hack and slash, sword and sorcery vs sci fi. Most of this is answered by the particular ttRPG in question and the DM explaining the type of game. There is also an understanding that these games are group games, that the DM has to have authority, that there is mechanics and roleplaying, and that quests/encounters/adventures do not simply materialize. A player going into a D&D campaign who refuses to work with other players, or go on any quest/adventure is not accepting the terms of the game.

    My last ttRPG I ran was a Pathfinder campaign. It was action/adventure high fantasy. When we all sat down to roll up characters, this was explained and from then on everyone knew what they were playing. They knew it required some teamwork, as it was a group of players. They understood there was a general "plot" and that they are free to act on or ignore it, but that it is there. They knew there are no cell phones, tanks, machine guns, lasers, or space ships. They knew there was magic, deities, mythical creatures, and monsters.

    Players should accept and respect the metagame, that this is a ttRPG, and play accordingly. If the players don't want to accept the metagame that comes with ttRPG's, then just don't play, or at least not in that particular setting. Further reading here
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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I, sadly, have to disagree almost entirely with the premise of "just playing along", at least in certain cases.

    Let's start with all the problems of just ignoring every time where the GM doesn't seem to be following the rules.

    Far too often, I've had someone go to tell the super cool story of how their awesome character used this super cool trick to totally save the day... only to discover (from their audience) that it doesn't actually work that way. And, sometimes, that their "cool trick" should have resulted in a TPK. If you don't have someone who can deal with it at the time, you walk away with an anti-story - sometimes as the conclusion of a lengthy campaign. For all that investment to be waisted... it's just sad.

    People can't learn if you don't say anything.

    With the hobby's level of popularity, and the existence of the internet, "reality" destroying your "childhood dreams" is almost a given.

    Further, let's suppose that the GM actually is following the rules. By turning a blind eye, you've missed out on important hints, and likely role-played your character very poorly / role-played them as incompetent if they should have noticed the difference. I can't see either of those cases being fun (and I enjoy role-playing my signature character as tactically inept).

    Sometimes, "mistakes" are actually "hints".

    If a rules change is the result of a mistake, then by definition the GM has not thought through the consequences of the change. Then you either get one-time powers that comic books get laughed at about, "NPC only" powers that reek of bad GMing, PCs turning a blind eye to valid tactics in ways that strain credulity, or you inadvertently make wacked out new rules (which I guess could work for some play styles).

    The elegance of a game can be measured in how few house rules it has - make sure yours exist for a reason.

    And, don't forget that different people have different definitions / sources of fun. Internal consistency is a requirement for fun for some players, and almost impossible for most DMs - especially inexperienced ones - who do not encourage immediate rules discussions.

    Know your players. Know what can make the game un-fun. Make the game fun.

    .....

    Second edition D&D wild mages had a spell, alternate reality, that allowed them to reroll, or to allow / force someone else to reroll any roll that occurred within the past round. So, for example, the paladin fails his save and turns to stone. His protection from evil aura goes away. The demons can charge, and murder several party members. The cleric admits he's actually a servant of the evil gods, and joins the demons. Then the wild mage gets to go, casts alternate reality, the paladin makes his save, was never turned to stone, lots of math has to be undone, and now everybody knows the cleric's secret out of character. Needless to say (for the past 25 years, ever since Tome of Magic came out back in 1991), with examples like this, it's been an easy sell to convince DMs to let me use my custom spell "immediate action" version of alternate reality.

    Similarly, the longer you let a problem exist before you address it, the more entrenched in the game's history it has become, and the harder it is to do anything about it.

    So, in my experience, calling it out during the game is the least disruptive course of action, and sometimes the only way that the game can continue.

    And, at least for now, I won't even get into all the missed role-playing opportunities of just blindly accepting Roolph after Rolph dies, or the horrible desync problems that could be solved by actually working through / creating plot hooks together vs the problems caused by railroading them.

    But, suffice it to say, I think there are a lot of better solutions than reliance upon blind acceptance there, too.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2016-03-10 at 01:46 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Haha, there's always a guy.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    There has to be give and take; if the DM goes to far, then the players have no sense of agency. If the players go to far, the DM wastes all the hard work he or she put into the world and has to either be an amazing improvisationist in order to keep up, or else just fiat the problem away. Just as the prime rule of TTRGP's is "As long as you're having fun, you're playing the right way", the inverse also applies: If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    There`s a huge difference between "lets play along and see where this leads" or cutting a new DM some slack and "doing it all the time".

    The first one I absolutely support (though if its a System I know well I tend to talk to the GM outside the Game and ASK if it was intentional).

    Also, if something smacks "off" there`s also the chance its an InGame Hint to "greater Things", so I would ALWAAYS caution against IGNORING such things, but also against making too much of a fuss unless its quite often that you happen to see them.
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  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by GrayDeath View Post
    There`s a huge difference between "lets play along and see where this leads" or cutting a new DM some slack and "doing it all the time".

    The first one I absolutely support (though if its a System I know well I tend to talk to the GM outside the Game and ASK if it was intentional).

    Also, if something smacks "off" there`s also the chance its an InGame Hint to "greater Things", so I would ALWAAYS caution against IGNORING such things, but also against making too much of a fuss unless its quite often that you happen to see them.
    I can only guess that it's an artifact of the "DM vs players" mentality that player involvement in game structure is viewed as an attack, rather than working together to make the game run smoothly. I've seen players "cut the new GM some slack" by dealing with rules for them, leaving them free to develop and describe the environment. Heck, one time when I was overloaded, one of my players took the initiative (pun intended) and just took over the initiative system for me - those few extra seconds between actions gave me the time I needed to make the opposition act intelligently in combat without stressing that I was slowing the game down.

    It's the same thing with adventure hooks - for some reason, I've seen so many GMs come to the table with a few set ways to hook the characters; when those hooks fail, they don't know what to do. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a GM then talk to the player(s) OOC and ask what route they could take to interest the party in a given adventure seed. For some reason I cannot fathom, the idea of working together to make the story work just seems to be foreign in ttRPGs.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by digiman619 View Post
    If the players go to far, the DM wastes all the hard work he or she put into the world and has to either be an amazing improvisationist in order to keep up, or else just fiat the problem away.
    While I make no claim on being amazing, improvisational skills have been an excellent tool for me, as well as a lot of fun to develop over the years. On the whole, my players (and I) like sandbox games and the ability to make up an adventure hook off the cuff, or totally ad-lib a conversation with some new NPC you just created is a vital tool. But there's plenty of ways to get around this (have notes about the area ready, a list of pre-made names, know the major villains of the countryside in advance, etc. etc.).

    I feel like when the players "go too far" it can actually be pretty rewarding, and it's not quite as hard to cope with as when the DM starts dictating too much of what happens in-game. My players went too far like, twelve years ago, and we never came back.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by ImNotTrevor View Post
    But yeah, don't be a douchenugget to people. This... shouldngo without saying.
    I take offense to that.

    I personally will wait until the end of a session if I have a problem with the DM... but if it's a player, our party mocks each other pretty frequently - it's all in good fun... so we don't have a problem calling each other out on stuff.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by Douche View Post
    I take offense to that.
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I, sadly, have to disagree almost entirely with the premise of "just playing along", at least in certain cases.
    I still say it's best to just keep quiet. It is just a game. Roll with it.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I'm of mixed minds on this. For a lot of the small stuff, it's fine to let it go, and that's what I do. For example, if a monster is slightly breaking the rules, I first ask myself "Would this be a valid ability for a homebrew monster of roughly this level to have?" And if so, then it's fine, no need to make an issue.

    I do mention rules errors when they're going to make a big difference to the outcome. Like a blinded monster taking an AoO on someone who's near death, or people forgetting about the miss chance for being incorporeal, for instance.


    As far as railroading - the common wisdom is that DMs are or are not railroaders, and you should just avoid the former (or play with them, if you enjoy railroading) - either way, nitpicking the rules isn't going to matter. However ...

    IME, I disagree completely. There are a fair number of DMs that don't set out to railroad, but they unconsciously do it because it's the simpler/easier option. Having all PC divinations return nothing useful, for instance, or fudging a bit to make sure no enemies with useful intel get captured 'too early'. But it's not deliberate, and that means that often, if you call them on it (in a polite way), they'll put in a little more effort and let things go where they go. And that can lead to a better game for everyone (including the DM - engaged players are more fun to DM for).

    So fudging for the purpose of railroading, I will point out. It often leads to improvement, and if not then at least you know where you stand, and can make an informed decision about the campaign.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Honestly, most of the games I run only work because my players don't even consider that I might be a bad GM, mainly because a lot of the things I do look like the traditional "Red flags" until I actually know how to use them properly because I've been on this forum for four years and actually know how to handle them (Cough DMPCs cough breaking WBL horribly cough).

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I dunno, I feel that as the players should be urged to "Play Along", so should the DM. I've had DMs that, if your actions/decisions didn't fit the narrative then they would either veto the choice or have it loop back around where their decision was the "right" one (or similar tactics).
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Quote Originally Posted by Silus View Post
    I dunno, I feel that as the players should be urged to "Play Along", so should the DM. I've had DMs that, if your actions/decisions didn't fit the narrative then they would either veto the choice or have it loop back around where their decision was the "right" one (or similar tactics).
    Um, Yeah?

    This forum may quibble over degrees and have the occasional bad apple, but at the end of the day most of us agree that D&D is a cooperative game built on trust where all players (even the DM) have some agency. As such, all the players (even the DM) should be inclined to try to work with each other.
    Last edited by OldTrees1; 2016-03-12 at 06:52 PM.

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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    In general, ignoring a plot hook makes you more of a bad player than railraoding such an unruly player makes a GM a bad GM. There are only a few cases where that isn't so. A GM puts a lot of effort into creating a campaign, monumentally more than the players do. Blowing off their plot is honestly really disrespectful.
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    I believe in "playing along" when it comes to things like plot (most of the time. Our group is usually pretty cool on this, except when the plot gets really really stupid... like in Savage Tide), as well as including new party PCs ("you seem trustworthy, will you join us?") in the team.

    I can even play along with letting the GM do cut-scenes to describe something to us, set the stage, let the villain monologue. That kind of thing.

    However, I do not play along with bending of the rules. I will call foul when someone is doing something that is not possible by the rules. Usually in our group though, it is often we remind eachother of various penalties, bonuses, or remind the GM of rolling miss chance on our attacks, or similar things, so I find it acceptable that players and GMs call out things that don't work according to the rules. If there are disagreements about interpretation of rules, I prefer that the GM makes a call (since such things usually comes up in combat) that counts for that encounter until they can check later... bogging down combat with rules-arguing is something I don't really like, and I'm incredibly hard-line myself as a GM in making a judgement on the spot and then change it if we find a correct ruling somewhere on the net.

    I find that letting repeated rules-mistakes be tolerated too often just gives bad habits, instead of teaching people what the rules actually are.
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    Default Re: The Importance of Playing Along

    Speaking as a DM I am not sure I agree.

    If I am doing something wrong or something to detract from the fun my players are having i want to know about it. It doesn't mean anyone has to get angry or be unpleasant but just to make sure the important points are raised.

    If I have too much combat, tell me it feels like a grind. If there are too many puzzles and they all feel contrived then tell me. I honestly want to know about problems so I can fix them.

    Other issues can be handled IC. If something in the plot is inconsistent then discuss it with others in the party - the DM listening in will know if it is a feature that people are picking up on or if it is a mistake.


    Working together to make a good game means players have to speak up to make it better. Sitting there and hoping for the best shows a lot of faith and is better than disrupting the game but players can make it better faster by letting the DM know what is wrong.

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